The government of Nepal passed legislation to allow community management of plantations and indigenous forest in 1976, but by the time this paper was written, success was limited. The authors argued that in order to foster true participation in control and decision-making by local residents, forestry extension workers should act as catalysts to break the cycle of deep-rooted dependency relations. This in turn required that extension workers themselves should be involved as collaborative partners, with authority, recognition and support. A re-orientation of extension training and management was needed, in which a taught blueprint was replaced by participatory workshops, field support from senior staff and advisers and appropriate institutional change. Experience in two districts showed that this was possible to achieve, albeit only with great dedication.